Stitch and Flip Pressing Tip

Have you ever made a stitch and flip unit only to be disappointed to find that it is undersized? Because I do not pre-wash my fabric, this happened to me all the time, and I got frustrated enough by the undersized units that I avoided patterns with stitch and flip piecing. When I wrote the pattern for Star Pulse (my quilt along for this year), the piecing method that made the most sense included some stitch and flip units, and I figured that I was going to make sure that I was successful once and for all. I shared this tip during the quilt along, but I wanted to document it more carefully, so let’s take a look at my stitch and flip (SNF) pressing tip.

SNF Pressing Tip - Step 1 - Base Unit and Square

SNF Pressing Tip – Step 1 – Base Unit and SNF Square

There are lots of different shapes that can be used with the stitch and flip method, but for the purposes of this quick tip, I chose to cut the base unit to 4″ square (the navy print) and the SNF square to 2¼” square. So that I can demonstrate different pressing methods, I made two units at the same time.

SNF Pressing Tip - Step 2 - Mark and Sew

SNF Pressing Tip – Step 2 – Mark and Sew

I marked a diagonal line on the wrong side of the SNF square and sewed the square in the upper right hand corner of the base unit.

SNF Pressing Tip - Step 3 - Trim ¼" Seam Allowance

SNF Pressing Tip – Step 3 – Trim ¼” Seam Allowance

Then I trimmed a ¼” seam allowance.

SNF Pressing Tip - Step 4 - Press

SNF Pressing Tip – Step 4 – Press

I pressed each unit with a different technique. The unit on the left was pressed using steam. The unit on the right was pressed with a dry iron. Lining the two SNF units back up on my cutting mat after pressing, I can already tell from the grid on the cutting mat that something looks off on the right hand edge of the unit that I pressed with steam. Because I pressed the unit on the right with a dry iron, the SNF square is not laying flat on the cutting mat. So let’s get out an acrylic ruler and take a look at how the units measure up.

SNF Unit Pressed with Steam

SNF Unit Pressed with Steam

Ideally, after adding the SNF square, the completed SNF unit will be the same size as the base unit (4″ square in this example). As we could see in the previous photo, the SNF unit pressed with steam is now less than 4″ square. And for years, I pressed all my seams with a healthy amount of steam and was disappointed by my undersized SNF units.

SNF Unit Pressed with Dry Iron

SNF Unit Pressed with Dry Iron

Taking a close look at the SNF unit pressed with a dry iron, we can see that it still measures the same size as the base unit, 4″ square.

If you are a quilter who prewashes fabric, I’d love to have you repeat this quick experiment and let me know if you see a difference in using steam and a dry iron when you make stitch and flip units. I suspect that with prewashed fabric the difference between pressing with steam or a dry iron will make a much smaller difference (if any at all!).

Happy piecing!

Linking up with Tips and Tutorials on the 22nd.

27 thoughts on “Stitch and Flip Pressing Tip

  1. To ensure I have the correct size after I have flipped the piece, I sew a thread width away from the line on the side that will be cut away. Central Florida Modern Quilt

  2. I stopped using g steam some time ago, but will lightly spritz a final block when all the patches have been constructed. I do as Rebecca does as well, and then I do one more thing: before I trim, I flip the triangle onto the original square or rectangle to be sure that it matches that original shape. If it does, great, if it’s off, I will resew if necessary.

  3. Interesting experiment. I tend to avoid this method too but for different reasons – those little leftover bits trimmed away seem to tempt me to hold onto them with the thought I’ll actually do something with them. 🙂

    1. patty says:

      Opps – above comment from me, not the guild!

    2. Rondalyn says:

      Start saving them in a bag. Can be used as stuffing. I am a little anal about things like that. It makes me feel good that it was put to use even though the amount I had didn’t amount to a hill of beans. It was repurposed.

  4. This is a brilliant tip! I never would have thought to try it with a dry iron, but it makes sense if the fabric isn’t prewashed. I also sew just to the outside (toward the point or away from the center of the larger square) of the drawn line then trim just a bit if needed.

  5. Julie says:

    SNF is probably my least favorite technique. I have better results using a ruler to trim the the piece on the diagonal first rather than sewing on the line. My favorite ruler is a bit complicated and works best with an even number of SNF units as you cut oversized squares in half for the flipped triangle portion. I generally try to avoid specialty rulers but this one has been cost effective for me. There are other folded corner rulers that are less complicated & simply cut the corner. I’d rather sew with an edge than sew on a line. I only use steam to press out wrinkles in fabric, not when piecing.

  6. Liz W. says:

    I stopped pressing with steam years ago because I realized that it was making my blocks come out wrong, and my piecing improved after I stopped using steam. I never actually did a side-by-side experiment, though, so thanks for that, now I know it wasn’t just me!

  7. Debra G Best says:

    Wowza! Thank you so much for this tip. I always struggle with this! Now I will use a dry iron!

  8. EllenB says:

    Thank you for the info and great photos. I always check my seam allowance, but maybe this is why my blocks have small discrepancies! I’m going to try this later today with some flying geese.

  9. Great tip, Yvonne! I don’t normally press with steam, but occcasionally, I will. I actually like SNF blocks and will definitely keep this pressing tip in mind when I make the next ones! Sewing just a thread width inside the line also helps me. I also am not a pre-washer! Thanks sew much for sharing your experiment.

  10. bounciegirl6 says:

    I press the folded corner up before trimming. I carefully match the points together, press, open and trim.
    It works great for me.

  11. couchcrafts says:

    Thanks for this post and the helpful comments! I never use steam, but still have trouble with my stitch n flips coming out the right size. I think some of the comments above will be helpful to me — stitching a threads distance away from the marked line, and double-checking alignment before trimming for example. And I suppose just more practice! As for the idea of using the trimmed corners — doesn’t quilting jetgirl have a post on how to make use of those? (Or that not helpful for your goal of not hoarding lil corners???) Thanks!

    1. I press my seams open to help with size accuracy, too, but there are some really good tips here in the comments. And thanks for thinking of my Bonus HSTs from SNF table (!


      1. couchcrafts says:

        Oh yay I’m so pleased that I remembered right!! I always sew a bonus HST with stitch n flips, but I loved seeing you talk about it in a systematic way. (I’m also a scientist, maybe that’s why.)

  12. Renee says:

    I use a dry iron. Mostly because I don’t like water sitting in my iron. I press the seams flat before I
    press them to one side.
    I am curious – do you pre-wash your fabric?

  13. I don’t use a steam iron, and my SNF blocks would still come out a bit wonky until I started using the thread width method. I have to be careful to keep my stitch line straight too, as that affects how the block finishes. I’ve learned to flip the corner first to check alignment before trimming to the seam allowance, in case I need to rip and redo.

  14. Like other commenters, I find that if I sew just a thread-width to the outside of the line, the SNF unit comes out the right size. It’s the same principle as the scant 1/4″ seam. I, too, hate those guilt-inspiring “bonus” triangles!

  15. Ginny A Bishop says:

    I just bought the new earrings kit from Connecting Threads. They require little (tiny) scraps!

  16. Annie says:

    Good Morning!
    Thank you so much for this. No matter the style of quilt, your tips are always spot on. I print them out and put them in a “Jetgirl” folder for my own reference, but I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered writing a book?

  17. Susan says:

    I was just wondering what happens after the block is sewn into a quilt–does it shrink when washed?

  18. Lisa says:

    This is where I appreciate the size after trimming. Steam vs hot makes total sense thank you

  19. Danice G says:

    Thank you so much for this tip. I have had this happen to me using steam setting. Since then, just press with no steam. Its funny how that makes a difference, isn’t it?

  20. aquilterstable says:

    I have often had the same results with you when I was using steam. I currently don’t use steam, so I guess that’s good. (I confess I prefer using steam in general, but have changed my ways for a variety of reasons, such as this.)

  21. Corinne Griffin says:

    Steam is the culprit in these for sure. Also using a wool iron mat without steam is a step up too.

  22. This is such an insightful post. Steam always distorts a bit so I am not surprised. I used to use steam a lot and tend to only use it as I finish a block, or a row if it is not behaving. I loved steam, but it does cause some wonkiness and I think it may depend on the fabric, too.

  23. Linn says:

    Thank you for this tip about steam. I am a new quilter; I could not understand why some of my blocks were distorted. Now I know! I’m also wondering, would application of spray starch have the same effect? I suppose so, since it is in solution with water. Perhaps this is why some quilters who like to use starch apply it before cutting. Thank you thank you! I love to learn from people’s tips.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)